The Hard Places is a new documentary film profiling the powerful life story of humanitarian and optometrist Tom Little.
Dr. Little worked in Afghanistan for the International Assistance Mission, an organization that provides nearly 90% of all eye-care in the war torn nation. He, his wife and their children endured over three decades there: through Soviet occupation, civil war, Taliban rule and most recently, the U.S. invasion. Despite the constant danger to their mission and their lives, they refused to leave. Tom believed it was his calling to help those who had no options, who were caught up in violent circumstances, whom he saw as fellow human beings in need of love, laughter, and a healing touch. Tom trained native Afghans to become eye doctors, and established numerous clinics throughout the country to treat the thousands of Afghans suffering from vision problems. To the Afghan people, he became affectionately known as “Dr. Tom”.
As a humanitarian, Tom Little cut an unconventional and, at times, controversial path in order to build bridges between Christians and Muslims, East and West, “haves” and “have-nots”. He bucked the traditional stereotypes and persevered through a process of constant adaptation and imagination, shunning bureaucracy, in order to treat the sick, wounded and dying. And when it seemed that every other western family had fled from the warzone, he and his family dug in, choosing the basement of their home in Kabul during the worst days of the civil war, rather than safety of their home in the suburbs of America.
In July of 2010, Tom and a team of fellow aid workers backpacked 120 miles into the remote province of Nuristan at the invitation of village elders to serve a population of nearly 50,000 people without access to medical care. Tom and his team endured great personal risk to treat the never-ending lines of people, many of whom had walked for two days or more to receive care. On August 5th, 2010, as Little and his team were returning to Kabul, they were ambushed and murdered in the wilderness.
In 2011, in recognition of his life’s work and sacrifice, President Obama posthumously awarded Tom Little the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon any U.S. citizen.
This documentary will probe the dangers and challenges involved in a decades-long mission to provide health care in a desperate nation, and reveals the lasting impact and continuing legacy of Tom Little’s work. In addressing the timeless values of service, self-sacrifice and the incredible power of forgiveness, “The Hard Places” will illuminate how the power of a man’s faith could lead him into the shadow of death, at the risk of his, and even his family’s very existence. Finally, the film will follow the extraordinary journey of an ordinary man who chose to forsake a life of comfort and security in order to reach out and touch the lives of strangers, literally delivering the gift of sight, in a country that he called one of “The Hard Places.”